Abortion politics don’t actually do anything. ’Cause we need to do something.
I’m prolife. By which I mean I’m anti-death.
I know; most of the time when Evangelical Christians call ourselves prolife, we really mean anti-abortion. We’re against that kind of death. All the other kinds?… Well, some of us are against the other kinds. The rest of us only care about preventing abortion: The unborn are the epitome of innocence, and totally undeserving of death. The rest of humanity: Meh, they’ve sinned already. Screw ’em.
In case you’re not clear what I mean by “all the other kinds” of death, let me spell a few of them out for you.
- Death due to criminal or terrorist activity.
- Death due to domestic violence or child neglect.
- Death due to inadequate healthcare.
- Death due to inadequate gun laws.
- Death due to inadequate prison supervision.
- Death due to unnecessary, unjust war.
- Death due to unnecessary, unjust police shootings.
- Death due to inconsistent implementation of the death penalty.
Christ Jesus came into the world to defeat sin and death. Problem is, your typical “prolife” individual only frets about one form of death. But has no problem with implementing death for every other form of sin. Not only that, they’re annoyed if we don’t implement it. All murderers should be executed, they figure, instead of clogging our prisons. All terrorists should be shot. Forget humane forms of execution; bring back drawing and quartering.
For that matter, they’ve no problem with death being the unfortunate side effect of their access to guns. They’ll bellyache against unrestricted access to abortion because it’s “too convenient,” but make ’em sit through a 5-day background check to buy a gun and they’ll lose their tiny minds. But I digress.
No, I’m not saying we need to abolish the death penalty. Nor am I saying we should ban guns, or never go to war. Stating, “The system has problems, so let’s be rid of the whole system,” is stupid. Doesn’t matter whether a liberal or libertarian says it.
But as we’re waiting for Jesus to return and overhaul our system top to bottom, let’s be good and faithful servants. Let’s do what we can to make it work as best we can. Let’s fight sin, and also fight death.
Reducing “prolife” to only being against one form of death, is also stupid. But let’s be blunt: The prolife movement isn’t really a Christian movement. It’s a political one. It exists for the sake of winning the absolute loyalty of prolifers to the Republican Party, so long that this party claims to be prolife. Meanwhile in practice, the Republicans do jack squat to reduce or prevent abortion. If they were serious, they’d’ve been successful. They had the authority. For eight years, from 2001 to 2009, they had control of the White House, and majority control of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the statehouses. Eight years. Changed nothing.
Seriously. Substantively. Nothing.
Well, they did in that time finally get me to stop putting my faith in the Republicans. I already trusted neither the Democrats nor the third parties, so now I’ve been disabused of any such naïve beliefs. I’m only registered as a Democrat for pragmatic reasons: If you ever want access, you gotta be in the system somewhere. May as well be in the party where if people claim to be prolife… it’s because they truly mean it, ’cause the party sure ain’t gonna nominate you.
The single-issue voter.
I know a lot of single-issue voters. They’re the folks who claim, “I look at all the issues; I see what each candidate thinks of them; I pick the candidate I agree with most”—and it’s pure hypocrisy. Only one of those issues is, to them, a dealbreaker. The rest they kinda care about… but the opposition candidate can believe in it too, and they’re never voting for that guy.
For nearly all of these single-issue voters, the sole issue is abortion. And I’m not just talking about prolifers. Plenty of pro-abortion-rights Americans are single-issue voters as well. If you’re running for office and agree with them on every other position, but you’re prolife, they’ll turn out in droves and fight you tooth and nail.
Even when you’re running for an office which has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion politics. Fr’instance, the California Secretary of State. Despite the title, that job has nothing to do with diplomacy; that’s the federal State Department. The state-level job handles elections. Abortion politics aren’t part of the job. It’s only about whether they can fairly administer an election. And they could be a wholly incompetent partisan who looks the other way in rigged elections… but a single-issue voter only cares about abortion, and will look the other way as well.
Yeah, it’s stupid. But common.
My prolife friends insist it’s a useful litmus test for everything else the candidate believes in. If they’re prolife, they likely agree with them on every other social-conservative issue. Like same-sex marriage, flag burning, profanity on television, school prayer, and gun rights. And y’know, they’re not usually wrong. ’Cause prolife candidates tend to be Republican, and pro-abortion-rights candidates tend to be Democrat.
Which is what Republicans are counting on. Especially when these prolife candidates lack character. When they know nothing about any of the other issues. When they even believe just the opposite of most folks in the party. In these cases, they figure prolifers will look past these significant defects and vote their way regardless. And y’know, they’re not wrong.
Yeah, obviously these statements apply to the 2016 Republican presidential candidate. But I’m actually not trying to single him out. I live in California. In my state, two-thirds of us are Democrats. This party has a stranglehold on state politics. If you’re a Republican who wants to get elected, you’ve either gotta live in a predominantly Republican county (and we have a few), or you’ve gotta be far more progressive than your fellow Republicans are used to. It’s why our last three Republican governors were pro-abortion-rights. And that includes Ronald Reagan, who only switched his public views on abortion after he went national. In this state, prolife gubernatorial candidates don’t win.
It’s why my prolife friends kinda despair about state politics, and put all their hope in national politics. This time around, their despair’s going national. A lot of ’em are horrified at the Republican candidate’s character and behavior. They don’t wanna vote for him at all. In large part because they’re not single-issue voters. Abortion is a dealbreaker, but it’s not their only dealbreaker. For many Evangelicals their second issue, their other dealbreaker, is homosexuality: They’re against normalizing gay behavior, against same-sex marriage, against transsexuals using the “wrong” bathroom, against “the gay agenda.” The Republican candidate has no problem with homosexuality. And that’s their dealbeaker.
For others, they only wanna vote for fellow Evangelicals. (And will settle for Catholics… and sometimes Mormons.) Since the Republican candidate leans more towards bad fruit, and is clearly Christian-in-name-only, they’d never vote for him either.
But a lot of ’em have fallen back on their one abiding issue of abortion. The Republican candidate’s behavior and character may offend ’em, and they’re hoping against hope he’ll surround himself with advisers who straighten him out once he’s in office. (Though throughout the campaign, most of the folks who really tried to straighten him out have quit in despair.) But they still pin their hopes upon the idea he’ll nominate prolife judges. With enough prolife justices on the Supreme Court, they still expect the Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings, and ban abortion outright.
As far back as I can remember, even when I was Republican, that was the argument for holding your nose and voting Republican. It’s tried and true. So of course they’re using it again… even though they really have to hold their noses this time around.
Now here’s why it’s not valid.
What the Supreme Court isn’t.
Prolifers assume if they elect prolifers, they’re gonna appoint prolifers. Especially to the courts: Prolife presidents will nominate prolife judges. Prolife members of Congress will approve ’em. So once the courts are full of prolifers, some day they’ll get the right test case, use it to overturn Roe, and there will be much rejoicing.
Now, the first time someone nakedly tried to appoint a prolife Supreme Court justice, was on 1 July 1987: President Reagan nominated of Court of Appeals judge Robert Bork. Within the hour, Senator Ted Kennedy attacked Bork on the Senate floor. The subsequent Senate confirmation not only blocked Bork’s appointment; the whole process was so awful, Bork quit the Court of Appeals. Unless you’re the Swedish Chef, the word bork has come to mean an immediate, take-no-prisoners political attack. Try to put an overt prolifer on the bench, and they’re gonna get borked.
Thereafter, Reagan and his fellow Republicans only nominated “originalists” or “strict constructionists”: These folks believe they should only interpret the Constitution to mean what its authors originally meant. No reading their own interpretations into the Constitution. No eisegesis; only exegesis. If the authors didn’t intend or mean it, they won’t argue it.
Sounds good, right? Abortion isn’t mentioned in the Constitution; neither is the right to privacy, nor the separation of church and state. Sounds like their every ruling should go conservatives’ way. Right?
Originalism isn’t political conservatism. It’s interpretive conservatism: It means originalists aren’t gonna invent new interpretations of the Constitution. They’re gonna stick to precedent. Like all the previous Supreme Court rulings. Including Roe v. Wade.
That’s what’s since happened. Every time the Court gets another originalist judge, someone tries to send ’em another abortion case, hoping the justices will now overturn it. Every single time, the justices don’t. And won’t. Because unless you give ’em a compelling argument otherwise, originalists stick to precedent.
Roe is precedent. Has been for 43 years. You want it overturned, you need to appoint activist judges. You need to appoint someone who’ll go in there and filter the Constitution through their conservatism. But that’s not what Republicans have been sending to the Court. Five of the eight current justices are Roman Catholics—a religion which is decidedly prolife. But they won’t make rulings based on their religion, like we’d presume they would. Even the liberal ones lean towards originalism. They, too, stick to precedent.
No, the solution isn’t to fill the Court with prolife activists. They’d overturn Roe, but they wouldn’t stop there; they’d monkey with the Constitution in all sorts of unpredictable ways. Worst case, they’d start nullifying civil rights, like they did with Dred Scott v. Sandford. Yeah, I’m biased ’cause I interpret the bible in an originalist way, but I really believe originalists are the best thing for the courts.
You want real change? Amend the Constitution. Yeah, it’s hard to do: Congress has to agree on it, and the states have to ratify it. But we’ve done it dozens of times before. Once those amendments are in there, the originalists on the bench will stick to them. They can’t do otherwise.
Of course, that’s if you figure the solution to abortion is political. It’s really not. But I’ll get to that.
Where’s the president fit in this?
In the abortion debate, the president’s role has largely been to disapprove of it in general. If prolife, the president objects to any laws and policies which permit or fund it; if pro-abortion-rights the president treats it as a necessary evil and permits or funds it. Presidents have their own budget, and can chose to fund (or not) organizations which fund or perform abortions. Most organizations, realizing their funding can vanish in the change of administrations, try to steer clear of the issue. Though there are exceptions.
And yeah, presidents nominate judges. But unless they’re morons, they’re never gonna pick someone who won’t get the Senate’s approval. (Of course, there’s the Senate’s current tactic of delaying approval till they get a president they like better. That’s another rant.)
That’s about it.
Yeah, presidents can give speeches. As can anyone. But y’know, people are pretty entrenched in their positions. That is, till they personally have to face an unintended pregnancy, and either support their positions or waffle on them. I’ve known prolifers who folded, and had abortions. I’ve known pro-abortion-rights folks who would never have an abortion themselves. I’ve known people who were on one side of the debate till they encountered this issue head-on… and couldn’t stay where they were. I’ve known others who did stay where they were, and would never move.
Presidents can’t change the nation’s morals. Many Presidents have been prolife, yet abortions have still happened, legally or not. Presidents may preach till they’re blue (or orange) in the face, and nothing will change.
So since it ultimately makes no difference how prolife the president is, why is this the single issue which so many voters fixate upon? Because it gets ’em emotional. Therefore irrational. Therefore they never stop and think about all the other issues which merit a president’s attention. Like national security. Law enforcement. Drug policy. Diplomacy.
And they never think about what they can do to deal with abortion in their communities. It’s all the president’s fault; never ours. It’s all decided by the Supreme Court; never ourselves.
The real solution to abortion is simple: It’s to find women who are going through unexpected pregnancies, and provide them with resources and options. When they first discover they’re pregnant, many don’t think they have any options. All our political rhetoric has made ’em think they have a binary choice:
- Drop whatever plans you had, and raise that child.
- Abort it.
These are not the only two options. But people don’t always know this. Nor do they always have emotional or financial support. Parents, even “good Christian parents,” will gracelessly disown their pregnant daughters. Boyfriends will selfishly pressure their girlfriends to choose what they want. Women are made to think there aren’t any options beyond motherhood and abortion. So we need to provide them with options. Find and help them. Go to your local pregnancy resource center.
Stop giving money to politicians, and start giving them to the pregnancy centers and the needy. Are you irritated by the government using your tax dollars to fund abortion? Then give so much to a non-profit center, after deductions the government owes you. For that matter, there are certain kinds of heathcare and provision which the government gives grants to. Help your centers tap some of that.
Help the real people in your communities with their real problems. You need to stop expecting the government, especially the president, to solve things. They won’t.
And once you’ve stopped doing that, you need to take another, better look at your political affiliations. Look at some of those other issues, beyond abortion. Which of them reflect God’s kingdom? Do any of them? Which politicians are trying to better society, and which of ’em are striving for lawlessness and unaccountability? Which of ’em are using abortion as a smokescreen for their own dirty deeds?